Last year's duty tax hikes have been "devastating" for the UK pub and beer sector, the head of Fuller, Smith & Turner has said, amid a 1% slip in beer volumes during the first 43 weeks of its fiscal year.

Fuller's volume slip for the 43 weeks up to 24 January, announced today (29 January), shows a relatively solid performance against an on-trade beer market that slid by nearly 10% in the last quarter of 2008.

Like-for-like sales at managed pubs grew by 2.7%, said the group, which brews London Pride ale.

Chairman Michael Turner used today's statement to launch a tirade against the government's duty tax rises on alcoholic drinks.

"Notwithstanding Fuller's own situation, the Chancellor's duty increase during the year of 17.8% has had a devastating effect on some of our customers."

He joined industry associations from across the alcoholic drinks sector in calling for no further increases this year. "Fuller's beer volumes are outperforming the market but the British beer industry is not resilient enough to pay any more," he said.

In a veiled attack on cheap alcohol available in supermarkets, he added: "The British pub is the home of responsible drinking."

Up to 39 pubs are closing down every week in the UK, with beer sales tumbling, according to figures released this week by the British Beer & Pub Association.